« Frankfurt 2011

Nielsen Reports Print Book Sales in Decline

By Andrew Wilkins

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Print book sales continued to decline in 2010 across several major book markets and macroeconomic conditions would get worse before they got better, according to Nielsen Book sales data presented at Tools of Change Frankfurt on Tuesday.

The Republic of Ireland showed the largest single year drop at 8.7%, followed by the UK (6.1%), the US (5.7%), Spain (2.3%) and Denmark (0.5%). Only Italy showed modest growth at plus 0.6%, perhaps, suggested Nielsen Book’s Jonathan Nowell, because e-books had yet to catch on there. Fiction was the category most in decline in print across all markets, followed by children’s books.

For those looking to head to the bar and drown their sorrows, Nowell had at least some positive thoughts: no downturn lasts forever, “value” was going to be an increased priority for consumers, and the rapidly aging population should present publishers with opportunities to sell to “those book-loving baby boomers who finally have the time to read.” Let’s hope they don’t forget where they put their glasses.

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  1. Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Interesting confirmation of a trend that started in the US and is now worldwide. But I wouldn’t put too much stock by the baby boomers saving the printed book. Apart from misplacing their glasses (lol, I enjoyed that!), baby boomers retiring now have worked in the office for years with computers and are just as Internet savvy as anyone else. AND being retired, they’re more likely to look for bargain prices and prefer to read books at half the cost or less…i.e. e-books!

    So, in my view, the trend will continue and intensify. If it hasn’t surfaced yet in Italy it’s quite clearly because Italy is behind in e-reader penetration…

  2. Posted October 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Being a baby booomer myself, I started working with computers 30+ years ago and never stopped. I saw sales of my print books decline late last year. At margin, I see maybe one or two sold a month from my site and other retailers. It’s the ebooks which are selling.

    Here’s the problem, however. Some illustrated books or books containing photographs (and some photography books) may never be translated easily onto the screen in some formats. The popular basic ePub format, for example, is more geared toward text alone, while the only supporting format across the board is Adobe’s PDF. But device makers never take that into account when creating software to drive their devices. In the rush to offer ebooks as part of their features, they prefer ePub. This makes books more difficult to get by consumers. And children’s books have been left behind. Slowly, device makers are working to correct the problem, but in the meantime, prices for text novels have been driven so far down by retailers making them into loss leaders for their devices. Sooner or later, someone is going to balk and offer their books exclusively from their site in the same way JK Rowling has done, at prices which make the books fairly priced.

  3. Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    ePub works well for picture books today, iPad, Nook, upcoming Kindle Fire and the new ePub 3 will work MUCH better when offered. For the most part, I believe print will soon return to it’s cherished beautiful art form, rather than today’s mass market commodity.

    This report is laughable, much like music executives still dreaming about the return of CD sales. My boomer voracious reading wife got a Kindle 6 months ago. She now carries around a vast to be read pile, polishing off a book every few days. Trees rejoice, as do Indie authors she supports.

  4. Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    2010? Where are the stats for 2011?

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